You probably know a lawyer joke or two. It’s a profession that bears the brunt of more than its share of bad ones, usually based on the idea that the world would be better place if there weren’t quite so many lawyers walking around.
But you also probably know that, all around the world, there are lawyers who are doing work which is no laughing matter.
So how many lawyers does it take to change a lightbulb? The question we’d rather ask, at ERI, is how many lawyers it takes to stop forced evictions of Cambodia’s poorest communities for land concessions to foreign industries? How many to curb toxic pollution in China or end the construction of destructive mega-dams in Laos? How many advocates will it take to challenge the pariah government of Burma, a regime which uses law to oppress its people and is ruthless in its attacks on individuals and communities standing in the way of its quest for profit and power.
These are just some of the issues that the lawyers of the Mekong Legal Network – a group of committed and inspirational legal professionals and civil society leaders from Burma, Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam – contend with day in and day out.
As frontline defenders of human and environmental rights, these lawyers become targets themselves, risking their livelihoods, liberty and even their lives to stand up for people and their homelands. They put themselves in jeopardy of having their licenses to practice revoked. Laws against “incitement” mean lawyers can face criminal charges for taking up sensitive cases. They are labeled dissidents and subversives, and placed under surveillance. And when threats fail, they may be imprisoned, tortured, or even “disappeared.”
Given the risks, few are willing to take up cases to challenge the powers that be. We’re asking you to help us support these brave few who are willing to accept those risks and dedicate their lives to justice and the rule of law.
ERI is working with communities and their legal advocates throughout Southeast Asia, the Amazon, West Africa and elsewhere, to build systems, networks and leadership in regions with an urgent need for legal remedies for the injustices caused by rampant development and destructive resource extraction. With your help we can provide them the material and moral support they so greatly need and make sure that they know that they’re not alone in their struggle.
They need our collective support in order to continue their critical work. We hope that you will continue to be a part of this movement for legal accountability and protection of the most vulnerable peoples and environments by making a tax-deductible donation today.
Ka Hsaw Wa